Sometimes the only thing I know to do is write; even when the thoughts aren’t fully formed and even I don’t know what to say. I went to Las Vegas a few weeks ago and one of my most favorite things about the city is how friendly and welcoming the people that live there are. Our Uber driver said it best, “most people that live here are nice, and most people that come here are too. They are here to have a good time.”
My heart- just like your heart- aches for the beautifully limitless lives that were lost, the people that were hurt, and for the grief that so many more people will now have to endure. Like you, I am overwhelmed with sadness for the fear these acts of violence continue to create, for our nation that feels increasingly divided. I share your anger, confusion, and desire to make a change.
While I recognize that I am on the periphery- that I cannot fully understand the depths of the people’s pain whose lives have been tragically affected- devastations like today remind me of how fragile our lives are and how precious our time here together is. What I know is that one person’s actions impact us all.
I don’t have any simple solutions or answers, I don’t even have words. I have tears, sadness, pain and confusion. But what I know is that:
It’s not enough to post prayers on social media.
It’s not enough to gossip about these horrific atrocities or share a news story.
It’s not enough to be outraged while sitting in the comfort of your home.
The only thing I know to do in my tiny corner of the world is to be good to people. To hold the door open for strangers, to ask someone how their day is, to give someone the benefit of the doubt. To not allow small frustrations or misunderstandings to take over the limited time I have with the people I dearly love. The only thing I know is to ask questions, to engage with my community through advocacy, service, and voting.
I don’t want to say it simply, nor do I intend to offer a simplistic perspective on a very complex and multilayered issue, but I always mean it when I say ‘be kind. offer love.’
And what I mean is do it when it’s hard. When it’s uncomfortable, when you’re challenged and have to rise to the occasion. We can do more than offer kindness out of a place of convenience, self-service, or to post about on social media. Perhaps when you see a person without a home on the street and your first instinct is to look away, maybe you make eye contact and nod or smile instead. Maybe you interject when you hear someone ‘jokingly’ make an offensive and racist remark, or you might gently challenge your family member’s outdated understanding on issues taking place today. Maybe you attempt to learn and understand why people are kneeling and commit to standing beside them. Kindness means acknowledging another person’s humanity, respectfully addressing other people’s behaviors, and empathically trying to understand the other side of every story.
What I know is that we don’t need to further separate from one another, we need bridges and common ground. We need united conversations so that even when we have differing perspectives, we can still stand next to one another, holding each other’s hand. We must learn to express our emotions and disagreements in a healthy way, to dialogue about challenging topics while maintaining respect for the person that stands in front of us. We need to have solution-focused conversations about healthcare, politics, gun control, social inequalities, and racism but we must first learn to do so without becoming hurtful or more divided.
We all want to be safe. We all want to live full lives.
We all want to be able to go to a concert with the ones we love and dance the night away.
And when things like today happen, don’t run away from the world, engage with it. Change it.
I’m always looking to people to learn about myself and the way I want to show up in this world. I constantly question “is who I am being in this moment reflective of the greatest person that lies inside?” A lot of times I’m off base and some shifts in attitude or perception are called for; and sometimes I’m spot on and am respond with so much loving kindness that I can’t help but feel internal love radiating inside.
Lately, I’ve been trying to allow the hurtful and challenging people I encounter to teach me about kindness, to show me what it means it means to be compassionate, and to notice all the ways in which I begin to contract and feel when I experience difficult interactions. I look to strangers as models of gentleness, steadiness, and strength. I look to friends and acquaintances to teach me about bravery and the willingness to take risks. I look to ordinary people to teach me about success and making decisions based on purpose, rather than fear.
My greatest teacher most recently has been the barista at my favorite local coffee shop. After a particularly defeating day last week, I drove tiredly and with a sense of frustration to meet my husband to do more work. When it was my turn next in line, the barista, in a typical customer service fashion, asked me how my day was. “Rough,” I said. And because we are conditioned by so many of these interactions, I wasn’t expecting anything more than a simple, fairly generic response. I was taken aback when the barista stopped what he was doing, looked me in the eyes, and offered the most sincere sense of compassion. He asked me about my day and listened with attentiveness; he not only made it a point to personally deliver my meal and make an extra beautiful design from the froth of my coffee, but checked in with me later that night before he left his shift. The gestures were simple, but intentionally kind. What I know for sure is that the sincerity of his actions changed the outcome of my day. The barista’s presence and willingness to port forth extra effort gently switched my perspective; his actions a reminder that the way we show up in our lives matters to the people we encounter. He reminded me how much I value support, community, and gentle compassion and so I was able to move through the rest of the day more softly, more full.
I’m still thinking about his kindness and all of the things he didn’t have to do but chose to anyways. Here’s what I know:
You have the power to change someone’s behaviors, feelings, and day, simply by the way you show up. We can move through our days in automated ways- prioritizing our needs and wants over those we are surrounded by- or we can choose to be present in the experiences and potential suffering that other people encounter and make an offering of our hearts.
We can notice but it’s most powerful to act. We are in an age of sharing posts, images, and well wishes on social media versus taking intentional action to contribute to the alleviation of a problem. While education and acknowledgement of and about local, national, and international issues are crucial, we must be intentional about being the drivers of change.
There are so many possible beautiful interactions that could take place in this world. The person standing in front of you could turn out to be one of your greatest friends or deepest supporters- if only we would pause and allow ourselves the opportunity to connect to one another’s hearts.
Paying attention to the way people are feeling around you can make all the difference. And if their cup is empty, perhaps offer some of your love to fill it up.
Be kind. Talk to someone you don’t know. Offer love.
Out of all the things there are to love in this world, people are my favorite. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all of the hearts I am connected to and how grateful I am to have so many pieces of people’s lives intertwined with my story. Like the man from Budapest who told me about his daughter’s dreams while in Paris or the father I hugged when he got his son back. I think about the chance encounters that became my greatest friendships; your desk being placed next to mine because you were shy and I was not. I think about you crossing oceans and me moving to the mountains and both of us sitting next to each other on a hardwood floor in a circle, hands on our hearts. I think about all of us applying at the same restaurant as we made our way through college and dancing the night away eight years later on my wedding day. My heart thinks about you, all of the people that have read my words and then became my real life friends.
My heart overflows with gratitude when I consider the details that occurred in order for our lives to touch, the miles and miles we each spent walking the earth that resulted in your footprints making their way to my path. I’ll always believe that people show up right when we need them, to help us grow, to open us up to the possibilities, to carry a message, or to hold our hand in comfort after a particularly stormy chapter. I think about the people I’ve come to know who live their lives in the boldest, most beautiful, and magnificent ways. The people who teach you to be soft, who show you how to be honest and vulnerable, the ones who dare to change their paths to answer to their life’s calling. And I think about all of the people I do not know and all of the hearts that are beating just like mine. I think about entire populations of people that many of us know nothing about, who do courageous things and suffer in ways we cannot possibly understand. I think about all of the people sewing beautiful seeds into their corners of the world, who leave roots for things to grow in every place they touch. I imagine picking a flower they once planted or sitting underneath the shade of the tree they helped to grow.
With my blankets astray and snowflakes falling from the sky from my third floor apartment, I think about the ways in which we enter people’s lives. The ways our own feet lead us into another person’s story and create lasting change. We can show up in the world in big and small ways, like the way we carry ourselves, greet a stranger, or stand in a check-out line. We show up in the ways we use our talents to benefit another person, pursue our passions with every fiber of our being, and how we make a person feel about themselves. We choose the way we treat the people we love and the people we do not know. We can be soft while showing up strong, we can withdraw judgement and seek to connect, to extend a hand. We can help people to see the magic that they are.
I think about my yoga teachers, who without words, showed me how I want to be present in other people’s lives. In the last four months I’ve learned about the gift we offer to people we meet and the people we love when we are present and kind. I’ve learned that the more compassionate and gentle we can be with ourselves, the more compassion we can show towards others. I’ve learned how valuable it is to see each person as a whole, to take note of their heart, and to make room for someone to be just as they are. I was able to transform in beautiful ways because my experiences, challenges, and strengths were not only validated and seen, but celebrated and encouraged. I developed as a person because my heart was nurtured, my words were listened to, and my vulnerability was met with sweetness and love.
When it comes to loving people, here is what I know:
Powerful things happen when we allow people to be who they are instead of who we want them to be.
People transform with compassion, not shame.
When we nurture another human being, we create an opportunity for healing, softening, and growth.
We have the power to impact someone’s life in just one conversation, evening, or experience.
I believe when we show up authentically and vulnerably we encourage others to do the same.
We can stop trying to fix people and focus on loving them instead.
and so I thank you, for being who you are and showing up in the way that you did.
Think about all of the transitions you’ve been through during this season of your life. Maybe you’ve began to raise a beautiful human being that exists with an infinite amount of possibilities or became a beginner again as a new college student. Perhaps you’ve had to navigate this portion of your life without the comfort of a hand you’ve previously held, tiptoeing atop the earth knowing that a part of your soul is in the sky. I like to think that parts of our selves, like leaves, fall to the ground during autumn too. And perhaps the only thing we will ever come to know is that it all changes; the leaves, the weather, our existence.
I moved to a new state four months ago and said goodbye to some of my hearts greatest treasures. I left a job I loved and became surrounded by new people, the mountains, and a different culture. I became a stranger in a city I once somewhat knew, lost again amongst all of the streets and forever trying to find my way. There’s nothing like change in the literal and figurative weather to stir things up inside, creating room for us to reflect, grow, and heal.
I like to think of our individual cracks- the hurts, disappointments, setbacks, heartbreaks, failures, traumas, and losses- as the same veins that characterize our favorite marigold yellow, burnt orange, and red leaves. For the leaf, these veins carry vital nutrients; for us, the life lessons, experiences, and unknowns meant only for our hearts. I believe that some of our most beautiful lessons can be our most painful experiences, if only we might be able to find the meaning deep within ourselves. Within each crack is the ability to be transformed and soothed. I am not suggesting that we forget, but am gently offering that we don’t have to hold on to everything. I believe we find the strength in our healing. The trees teach us that we must learn to let go, that we can find sweetness in the fall. My sweet friend, we can be shattered and still rooted to the ground.
During this transitional period of your life, what would you like to let fall to the earth? We can let go of people that are no longer parts of our stories, experiences that only remind of us of pain. We can let go of the beliefs we’ve held on to about ourselves that feel real but are not true. We can let go of expectations about we are supposed to be be, knowing that we don’t have to be everything for everyone. We can let go of the messages we’ve created or received about our worth and allow old behaviors to fall away, making room for something new.
We can offer ourselves more time, sunlight, or compassion. We can be good to ourselves so that one day, we will open our eyes and find that everything is covered in light again.
my dear friend, our favorite season of fall only exists because things change.
you’ve transformed in beautiful and difficult ways; this is your gentle reminder that we can do hard things.
A week ago today, we shared our vows between two trees in the mountains with all of the most important people in our lives standing before us as witnesses. I know most everyone says this about their wedding day, but it was magical.
Early on, I set an intention to enjoy the process and to maintain perspective- to remember that I wanted to create a marriage that was more beautiful than our wedding. And so I did my best with infusing each step of the planning with love, attention to detail, and a deep appreciation for all of the help we received along the way. I wasn’t always perfect, but I did always try. July 23rd was an absolute dream that I’m not sure I’ll ever wake from and I’ll take from it more than a genuinely kind husband and a new last name. I gained an abundance of wisdom I never expected to receive and a re-commitment to celebrate each of my days with the same peace, happiness, and thankfulness I experienced during our wedding.
And so when people ask about wedding planning advice, I guess all I really have to offer are suggestions about life and things we already know but so easily lose sight of.
What I know is that love exists in moments. Nights of staying up too late talking, learning to swing dance, and falling asleep in buses, trains, subways, and on hard-wood floors. It’s in monthly budget meetings, cooking dinner at midnight, training for a half-marathon, and watching thunderstorms from the front porch while sipping on wine. It’s in those simple, sweet words that get strung together so perfectly that will one day become your vows. These acts of love are the moments that we will be forever nostalgic for.
And when you choose the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, remember that you’re also choosing the person you eat breakfast with, experience heartaches and growing pains with, and a person who will deeply influence who you become. You’re choosing a person who will be in all of the memories you have; a person to sing alongside with during road trips, someone you’ll cry in front of when life gets hard, and a person who you’ll sleep in with on lazy Sunday afternoons. You’re choosing a partner who will not only see you during your greatest and weakest moments, but also endure them all with you.
Choose well. Be with someone who will tell you a corny joke just to make you laugh and who knows when it’s a wine, cheese, and salami kind of day. You deserve a love that lights up your soul in all of the most beautiful ways and knows all of the deepest places in your heart. You deserve a love that is centered around kindness, compassion, sincerity, and warmth; a relationship that is tender, giving, and pure.
The best advice I have is to give away all the love you have in heart, on your wedding day and on unsuspecting moments that feel like ordinary life.
It goes back to love, but take the opportunity to look at every person at the wedding and know that your life story, happiness, and experience in this world has been impacted by all of the warm smiles standing before you. Place your hand on your heart and recognize all of the beautiful faces that showed up in honor of your love and to celebrate your relationship and new life adventure. Know that there may not be another chance to have all of your most treasured people eating together in one place, dancing together during one night. Close your eyes and try to capture it forever.
Notice all of the effort that goes into making not only your wedding, but your life, as memorable as it is and understand that you couldn’t have done this alone. Be mindful of the time spent by your parents making all of the wedding crafts, the sweet gestures of your new in-laws in planning the rehearsal dinner, your bridal party and their willingness to go offer advice and problem-solve challenges, and your extended family members who give up their vacation and contribute their talents into making your wedding day everything you hoped it would be. Recognize that these are the same people that have been offering you their gifts all along.
As a general rule, surround yourself with the people you would like to be like; be kind to everyone and selective in who you allow to become your greatest support. The people who will encourage you to take on new adventures and schedule phone dates with you just so they don’t miss a thing are the ones that will be there on your wedding day and all the days after. Hold on tight to your relationships with them.
And on a different day and in a different setting, look around you. Feel the happiness that wells up in your heart when you focus on the gifts you received in this life that come in the forms of your friends and family members. Focus on the love that brings you all together and gently let go of the rest. I’d like to bottle up all of the love that we were surrounded with on July 23rd and pass it around to strangers on the street in need of a pick-me-up. I believe that everyone deserves that kind of everlasting and unconditional love and I know we all bloom like the magnificent flowers we are when we feel loved, supported, and acknowledged.
3. Everything will fall into place
I think it’s natural to hope that our weddings are beautiful and perfect- but I also noticed that from this comes a hyper-focus on attention to detail, perfection, and rigid ideas about how the day will go. I worried about following the schedule, being on time, and whether the wind would blow our centerpieces away. I worried about whether our moccasins matched the dresses, if the color scheme matched our vision, and whether or not our food would arrive. But life is always teaching and reteaching me that when I loosen my attachment to expectations of how a situation will play out and focus on being open to the experience, everything unfolds in the most breathtaking way. I’m still learning that when we turn ordinary situations into emergencies, we get in our own way of the experience. And I’m still being mindful of the tendency to rob ourselves of the happiness and beauty of the moment by infusing it with our stress or worry.
I practiced allowing the day to unfold and fall into place the most on our wedding day and I smile when I realize how perfect it all was. The interrupted dances, rain on our rehearsal practice, the missing aisle runner, sneaky moonshine, and dipping too soon during our first dance. And as in life, we may not know it at the time but each moment is what we need, exactly in the way we need it.
4. Focus on what matters
Although countless numbers of hours were spent on creating the most serene venue – from the wooden benches to the handmade wood cut slabs and centerpieces- what I’ll remember most is my dad pointing out family members as we walked down the aisle and my two little cousins carrying the train of my wedding dress behind us. I’ll remember my mom dancing the night away with us under the star filled sky, sneaking kisses with my groom, and overlooking the mountains at an incredible view. I’ll replay moments of my bridesmaids sniffling as they heard us share our vows and remember us singing a made-up song to our photographer and watching them sway their hands as my dad and I danced to “My Girl.”
It was easy to get caught up in all of the details- perfecting every last centerpiece and debating over every single hair option, napkin color, and table arrangement. I’m glad I took the time to consider them and create an enchanting atmosphere, but the day would have been perfect without all of that. Don’t lose perspective on the love that brought you to this moment and the love that will sustain your marriage. Don’t get so focused on creating the perfect wedding that you forget to enjoy time with the family and friends that came to share it with you.
There are so many things competing for our attention and so many societal norms demanding our time and money, and in this all, it is our responsibility to choose to spend our energy on enriching our lives. Be unfaltering in your decision to focus on the things that can’t be easily captured or defined and commit to spending your life using up all of the love that you possess. And my dear friend, dance- on your wedding day, in your kitchen, and during salsa lessons- even if you don’t know how to. Promise yourself that you won’t leave the dance floor until you’ve convinced yourself that you have all the moves.
I can’t think about our wedding day and the months, weeks, and days leading up to it without crying. I attribute the constant flow of tears to my heart being so full with appreciation. Never have I experienced people showing up in the most beautiful and thoughtful ways to make us feel so loved and I will always remember this day as a blessing and a privilege.
Live a life of gratitude, of knowing that you have enough, and let the abundance of it all sustain you during difficult times. And in moments of frustration and differing of opinions, take yourself back to the richness of your relationships, the laughter you have shared, and all of the happiness that has colored your life. Take a step back from the push towards consumerism and material pleasures and know that these things will never fulfill our greatest needs. Take a deep breath in and fill yourself with deep gratitude of all that is yours; of all the hands that you’ve held, the scars that have healed, the hugs you’ve received, and the knowledge you have gained.
I still stay up late at night thinking about the kindness received from strangers and new friends in support of our wedding and the people in our lives who continue to teach me what it means to be selfless, flexible, and compassionate. I’m endlessly grateful for a husband who continues to be the best person I know and who always responds in the exact way I need. I’ll always go back to the conversation we had at 3am on the Thursday before the wedding in which he reminded me to hold on to every moment because they would be so fleeting, where we talked about the intentionality of happiness, and choosing to respond to whatever comes our way with love. I’m so grateful for every moment, misstep, and wrong turn that became our love story.
Today was meaningful because sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts, and sometimes when it is, you decide to make it last a lifetime by saying ‘I Do.’